Category Archives: Quality

Effective Technique to Prioritize Your Actionlist

Setting priority on pending actions is more of an art than a science. It is a continuous struggle to divide the resources available across the actions pending, and every company has to deal with this. We are continuously changing priorities on certain actions based on the changes in the landscape.

There are a couple of techniques you can use to prioritize the different tasks, which we will discuss in this post. However, it is very important that when you have made the decision to put the resources behind certain actions, that you keep them there. Otherwise, you might end up with a lot of unfinished tasks, and this could be disastrous.

Low Hanging Fruit (High Impact/ Short Period)

These are the actions that require relatively limited time but give you some good results. They are the no-brainers in your actions list and easy to finish. Make sure you put these high on the priority list because they give you immediate results. These actions are very important to improve the quality and safety awareness in the company because employees will also notice the changes.

Strategic Actions (High Impact/ Long Period)

These are the actions that require a lot of resources but deliver the company great results. Due to the lengthy process, employees don’t see the results quickly. It can even be the case that improvements occur gradually and employees don’t even notice them at all. However, they are crucial for the long-term strategy of the company. Think about awareness progress for safety.

(Low Impact / Short Period)

When there are still resources available, you could make a decision to work on these actions. Due to their short time period, it is relatively easy to finish them but their impact is pretty low as well.

Then we are left with the Low Impact / Long period type of actions. These are mostly not worthy enough to put any resources in. However, there could be changes in the environment that change the urgency of these actions. That is why it is important to keep them in mind.

Using this technique, you should be able to prioritize the tasks that need completing in order of the time they will take and the impact they will have. Then you can spread the resources among them to ensure the company is progressing and improving in the best way possible.

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Digitalise your Weld Management

The administration related to Weld Management has been increased significantly and is getting more complicated with new standards and changing laws. Every weld produced needs to be traceable for as long as the structure is used. Managing all this information is a hell of a job. For every weld, a significant amount of information needs to be filed. Think about the material certificates, the welder and the NDT report. This information should be organized, stored and easily retrieved when some authority asks for it.

Old School

A significant amount of companies handle weld traceability with a combination of Word and Excel files. There is nothing wrong with this technique, it just costs a lot of time and is prone to mistakes. The files are printed and left somewhere in the shop, and the information is added by pencil. The manually written data then needs to be typed into a digital Excel file, which holds all the information for the weld and the weld register. A big problem is that not all the necessary information is available to the people in the shop. If the information is available, it is often outdated and unusable. Next to the Excel file, a lot of data is stored in other places such as drawings, material certificates and welding procedures. When the dossier needs to be created at the end of the project, all of this information needs to be gathered from every corner of the office or shop and compiled. Even at this stage, a lot of information is missing which costs a lot of time and duplicated activities just for the sake of reporting.

Digital Age

Having all the information at the fingertips on a tablet will of course decrease the overall administration of the welds. Besides the time saved, it also reduces the number of errors in the data. The information will be created exactly at the point when the actions have taken place. The material certificates will be linked to the weld right when the weld has been created by the administration. Then when the welder is done the administration is updated right away. Every person involved in the process has the latest and most up-to-date information which prevents duplicated activities and increase efficiencies. The time saved is tremendous.

Analyzing

When the data is gathered, the company can really start to analyze the welds. Lead-time of a weld can be monitored quite easily, material ready for welding can be managed and planned, and reworks can be analyzed. The company can start to find relationships in the data, like for example which weld type leads to the highest reworks or whether reworks are going up when the lead time of a weld goes down. Hence, digitalization not only gives companies the chance to introduce efficiencies in the process, it also allows for analysis of the data to improve the process even further.

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Why Quality Management Automation Should Be on Your Agenda.

Delivering consistent quality for products and services is quite a challenge. There are thousands of variables that influence the quality. On the other hand, your customers expect the same level of quality every time they buy the product or use your service. All kind of mechanisms can be used to maintain a consistent level of quality. A few examples include the training of employees and providing standard ways of working including processes and procedures. Even with these tools in place, maintaining consistent levels of quality can still be demanding. A good automation solution helps to get a better insight into the challenges and how to approach them.

Data

Data is a key element in getting a feel for the consistency of the quality of your products and services. With this data, you can track customer satisfaction levels, customer complaints, supplier issues, quality and employee satisfaction, among others. Tracking data over time allows you to spot trends. It also gives the ability to easily see if the values are within range of the acceptable levels.

Though every company knows leveraging data is a differentiator, a lot of companies struggle to gather this kind of data in the first place. There are numerous different systems that don’t integrate with one another. On top of these systems, there are numerous Word and Excel documents that hold quality-related data. With all these silos it is hard to combine the data and turn it into actionable information. This is a big loss because all the information that has been gathered over the years cannot be used to actually see how the company is performing. In essence, the company isn’t really able to get a feeling on how it operates from a quality standpoint. While quality is one of the main values that most companies state either in their mission or in their corporate values, without the data this statement is not really measurable.

Automate

Wherever Excel and Word documents are part of the quality process, it is important to replace them by proper web and mobile solutions. These solutions allows for fast data gathering and store the information in a structured manner. In case other solutions are used like for example a separate app and some webforms. It is important to break these silos and make sure these systems talk with one another. On top of this, an integrated platform can hold all the information and allows the company to slowly break down their silos. This platform doesn’t have to hold all the information, as long as it is able to communicate with the other solutions used within the organization. With this way of working the information within the company can be used to improve the company.

Why Now?

Getting a real grip on the quality will help bring the organization to the next level. Data is a key driver in this process. This is why a well integrated solution for managing quality should be on the agenda of the directors. Every day this decision is postponed, the company loses valuable information that cannot be leveraged in the future. Aligning the quality activities and systems is crucial in maintaining consistent quality. Start now!

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A Data Driven Improvement Plan

We have touched upon the importance of data in quality and safety management numerous times. Of course data is important in every aspect of a business, but in quality and safety management it is just a little bit more important than other parts. Why is this? Because of all the standard focus on the continuous improvement abilities of the company. We believe that a good improvement should be based on data. Therefore it is crucial that data is gathered within the operations and in a structured and easy to analyze manner.

Improvement Plans

The improvement plans can be small or big. The most important point is that people always look for methods to improve the way the company operates. When a possible weak link has been found in the company, certain actions need to be taken and measured to see if any improvement has been made. These actions should be tracked by management to make sure the required actions have been taken. The complete improvement plan can just consist of a list of actions, and actually we prefer it not to be a big Word document which most people don’t read anyway. However, if the improvement plan does have a significant impact and requires more, simply create a proper plan but make sure the plan comes with actionable tasks to break it up.

The Start

The data comes mainly at the very beginning of the action plan and at the very end. In order to find a weak link within the company, the best way to back this claim is solid data from within the company. To have this data, proper systems need to be in place to allow employees to provide this data. This can be done with checklists or Non Conformity Reports or any other way. As you probably know by now, a Word document isn’t the best way to gather this information because of the labor required to get the actual information out. When the data has been gathered the analysis allows you to find the weakest link that needs to be fixed. Of course these links might change on a monthly or maybe even weekly basis, so it is important to keep on gathering data.

The Execution

When the problem has been identified all the tasks/actions to fix the problem are delegated. It is important that the responsible managers get assigned certain tasks within their department. It helps for managerial support and prevents the quality department being responsible for everything. They should only guide the different tasks and help when required.

The Results

After all the task are implemented the new results should be studied. Usually it requires a couple of weeks or months to see improvement in the data. Of course this is highly dependent on the amount of data the company generated, but at least a couple of weeks is a good figure. Again gathering the data is crucial in order to see if there has been any improvements after all the actions have been taken. This can be easily done by creating one graph that holds data before and after the improvement plan.

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Gap Analysis – Creating a team

Gap Analysis is a technique companies use to compare their current performance with potential performance. For example, their current practices compared to an international standard such as ISO9001, AS9001, ISO14001, ISO13485 or customer requirements. A well-executed gap analysis can help you improve quality, business efficiency and fulfil the customer needs by allowing you to pinpoint ‘’gaps’’ within your company. It outlines what areas of your current Quality System needs improvement to meet the requirements. Therefore, you need to clearly define and analyze these ‘’gaps’’ so you can set-up an action plan to move the organization to a future state and fill the gaps in performance.

So where do you start? If you’re wondering this, I advise you to follow the next steps to move your company to a future state.

1.1 Identify

The first step to creating a successful gap analysis is to identify one or more employees to perform it. In this process, it is crucial to choose the right people to fulfill the tasks. Think of quality managers or other employees who have experience with quality management systems, auditing systems or the requirements of the standard/customers. The team must be familiar with the challenges and opportunities your company faces during this analysis. Also good communication skills are required to make sure the results are communicated properly throughout the organization. If your team has not been trained on the requirements, be sure to provide proper training before performing the gap analysis.

1.2 Consultancy

You may also want to consider having assistance from a consultant. You may decide to hire a consultant for several reasons. However, knowledge of the requirements is not the primary reason organizations tell us they have chosen to utilize consultants to upgrade their Quality System. The people in your organization have their own daily responsibilities. Therefore, additional work can have consequences for the quality that they deliver. Also, a fresh pair of outside eyes can have refreshing results. In this case, a consultant comes in handy, so that your employees can continue to focus on what they are really good at and use their valuable time productively. If the requirements are highly technical or require a specialist, we always recommend to find a professional with experience in that particular field.

1.3 Gap Analysis Checklist

A commonly used tool for the gap analysis is the gap analysis checklist. This is a checklist of the requirements in the standard, written in a question-based format. The implementation team will use this list to compare your current management system with the requirements of the standard. This will provide your team with the right information. They will know which documents to look for to compare your management system with the standard.

Next week we will discuss the following steps, and dive deeper into the important elements needed to successfully perform a gap analysis. Don’t forget to keep up-to-date with the latest quality and safety news and subscribe to our blog! Until next week!

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Operational Excellence, how to bring it in practice

No doubt you have heard of Operational Excellence. It is a managerial buzzword just like ‘agile’, but Operational Excellence is also something every company should strive to achieve. Running operations as effective as possible will help the company not only to make more money, but also to keep employees happy. When less things go wrong, less people will complain.

But what is operational excellence? Well according to Wikipedia, Operational Excellence means:

The execution of the business strategy more consistently and reliably than the competition.”

This sounds nice in theory, but how do we accomplish this in practice? Hardly any companies have the same strategy so comparing companies is pretty hard, except of course when we look at financial figures. That is why it is very important to have your own benchmark to work with.

The Fundament

An integrated management system is the backbone of Operational Excellence. The IMS will consist of the internal process and the forms that are used for the required checks and balances. With modern online SaaS solutions the IMS can be managed with the highest efficiency.

These platforms will be your backbone that holds all your information together and allows you to distribute this information among your employees. There is no need to track and trace everything by hand. The backbone is critical for getting the right information and for creating that benchmark.

The Importance of Data

Data is a key ingredient in operational excellence. To benchmark your performance, data is required to do this. The data needs to be easily accessible and searchable to find the right information in your IMS.

Online platforms are the best modern technologies to not only have access to the data, but also to gather the information. However, in the end someone within the company needs to key in the data, as it won’t be created in the Cloud.

These modern platforms allow for secure access the data to anywhere in the world. At the same time their mobile apps allows for data creation at every location, production site or manufacturing plant. This way quality and safety related data can be harvested right at the time when something happens. The ability to create the report right away increases the number of reports significantly, which leads to more data overall to analyze.

Operational Excellence

When all the data has been gathered, it can be analyzed to see how efficient the company really runs. To reach Operational Excellence the company has to set internal goals to see how the efficiency can be improved. Trend analysis are crucial to track improvements over time.

Internal dashboards should be created to communicate the results with the company. The modern online platforms come with a built-in Dashboard manager to display the data the way you’d like. Displaying this data to every employee is crucial to create awareness and support by the employees, which will lead to better results.

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How to Use Kaizen to Continuously Improve Your Business

Kaizen, or Kai Zen, is Japanese and stands for ‘continuous improvement’. This means: How can we improve / adjust our products and / or services so that the customer is satisfied and we stay ahead of the competition? Some of such changes require great efforts; which means months of hard work and dedication. But often undervalued is ‘Kaizen’ or the long-term approach to improving systems through small, sustained changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality.  

The Six Stages of Kaizen

Kaizen has six steps in the continuous improvement process. The focus is on mapping out waste, inflexibility and uncertainties within the process. A kaizen with the following six clear steps ensures lasting results and motivated employees.

1. Identify

Map out the process, look for information in flowcharts and other work instructions. Make sure to describe your goal as clearly as possible, so that misunderstandings can be prevented. After that ensure that your employees are well trained in the process. 

2. Measure

Collect data by looking at the management system. A well organized management system like Qooling can ensure that data can be easily retrieved, so you can effortlessly see what’s going on in your organization at any time. 

3. Analyze

Analyze the collected data by using the 5 Why & 2 How model. This tool forces you to really think about what went wrong and how to improve it. Learn more about this methodology here. 

4. Innovate

Search for new, better ways to do the same work or achieve the same results. Look for smarter, more efficient routes to get to the same goal that boosts productivity.

5. Standardize

After you have improved your process successfully, make sure that the changes are documented and made part of the clearly defined process, so that everyone using the process can benefit. 

6. Repeat

The circle of continuous improvement states that after completing the steps, you then repeat the cycle by making another small improvement. 

The Six-Step Problem-Solving Process is an easy approach to dealing with issues and problems that you face. It is a systematic way to approach a problem with clearly defined steps so that an individual or team always have a clear grip on the process. 

Need help? 

Wondering how Qooling can help with successfully implementing kaizen? Contact us for a free consultation with one of our experts. 

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How to Perform a Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA) in 10 Easy Steps

History of the FMEA

The FMEA analysis is an common used Lean Six Sigma tool. In the past, the FMEA method was initially used by NASA in aerospace and for high-risk technologies. Since the 1980s, the tool has also been used in the automotive industry for Quality improvement. Nowadays the FMEA is a widely used tool for risk assessment & evaluation mainly in the manufacturing industry.

What is FMEA?

The Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a structured approach for analyzing potential reliability problems at the start of the development cycle. The tool examines what can be done in the product process to ensure that appropriate measures can be taken to eliminate errors and prevent or reduce their impact. The 10 steps of the FMEA process are explained in a simple way below:

STEP 1: Review the Process

It is important to review the processes that are followed within the company. These processes can be stored in documents or maybe you make use of a dedicated solution for this such as Qooling. Then make a list of each process component in an FMEA table. Advanced QMS solutions allow you to connect the procedure directly to the FMEA table.

STEP 2: Brainstorm potential failures modes

Here you investigate what can go wrong. Therefore, study existing documentation and data which you summed up in the previous step. Identify all the ways in which the process can fail for each component. For example with Qooling you can easily assign the process to every potential failure mode.

STEP 3: List potential effects of each failures

Consider the possible failures and the effect these errors would have on the final product or the next steps in the process. It is important to think thoroughly about the potential effects because this allows you to develop some great solutions to prevent it from happening.

STEP 4: Assign a Severity Ranking for each failure mode

Give a ranking score for each effect. For example, a frequently used ranking is that 1 is not serious at all and 10 is extremely serious.

STEP 5: Assign Occurrence Ranking for each failure mode

Estimate the probability of occurrence of the cause. Also use a scale from 1 to 10 to  keep a clear picture of the severity of the causes. Where 10 signifies high frequency and 1 signifies low frequency.

STEP 6: Assign deception ranking for each failures mode or effect

What are the chances the failure will be detected prior to it occuring. Here a score of 1 would mean we have excellent control and 10 would mean we have no control or extremely weak control.

STEP 7: Calculate the RPN (Risk Priority Number) for each effect

To decide where to focus first, multiply the Severity, Occurrence and Detection scores together to find the RPN value.

STEP 8: Develop the action plan

During this step, you must prioritize which failures are processed first on the basis of the RPN scores.

STEP 9: Take action to eliminate or reduce high risk failures modes

Assign new tasks to the responsible person within your organisation. This can be collecting data, changing processes or products, adding or removing functions. A Task Management solutions makes is possible to manage those tasks in clear overviews. The responsible employee and management will receive email notifications whenever important changes are made. This makes it much easier to keep track of the progress.

STEP 10: Calculate the RPN again as the failures modes are reduced or eliminated

It is important to document the changes made to the process. Once the actions are complete, analyze the results. Determine whether the changes have helped and re-score the occurrence and detection. 

Making FMEA Easy

A Quality Management Software can help you understand your business processes so that you can identify problems at an early stage. By means of automated push notifications, the solution keeps you alert of changes in your product / development process. This allows you to quickly intervene and reduce the impact of the error. Qooling has a built-in template for FMEA risk evaluation. Contact us if you want to know more on how to use this.

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A3 Problem Solving Tool

An effective and simple approach for problem solving is Toyota’s famous (lean) A3-approach. This problem solving technique is a good example of how problems can be handled in order to be eliminated efficiently. The A3 lean method can be applied in almost any problematic situation, provided that all the steps in the process are completed.

1.   Define the problem (Plan)

To clearly identify the problem, it is important to investigate the underlying problem. A handy tool for identifying the problem is the Kipling Method (What, Where, Who and How) or the 5 Whys, so that you get deeper and deeper into the problem and its cause. In addition, you can also use an application like Qooling, that makes it easy to report problems as soon as they occur. This will save time and help you quickly identify the cause.

2.   Break down the problem (Plan)

Once you have found the current problem, it’s time to capture and analyze the current situation. Make sure all the information of the problem is known. Try to really get to the root cause of the problem and work out what happened by breaking it down into parts.

3.   Set a target (Plan)

Formulate a clear and achievable goal: When will the problem be solved? What is the result and the effect you want to achieve? By setting clear goals, the change to solve a problem successfully is many times greater than when it is not.

4.   Analyze the root cause (Plan)

Now that you have clearly defined your goal, it is time to carry out a root cause analysis. This will help you reach the underlying cause of the problem. Proper issue management solution will support root cause analysis.

5.   Develop countermeasures (Do)

Countermeasures are your ideas for solving the problem. These can be changes in your business processes that bring you closer to solving the root cause. Make sure you create actions to track progress of this phase. Qooling allows you to easily manage these tasks and track the progress.

6.   Implement countermeasures (Do)

Analyze whether the countermeasure introduced has the intended effect. Make sure you have the end results of the tasks searchable.

7.   Evaluate results and processes (Check)

In far too many situations, the A3 process ends with the implementation of the countermeasures. It is crucial to measure results and compare them with the goal you have set. If your actual results differ from what was expected, do an investigation to find out why. Analyze your data and and see how often the same problems occur.

8.   Share new knowledge with employees

Once the results are back, it is important to share your insights with other employees. Qooling makes it possible to easily collaborate online with colleagues and share knowledge through our online solution. This will keep everyone up-to-date and reduces the chance of making the same mistake again.

By implementing this process properly you should be able to get a good feel for the cost of failure and how you can reduce this.

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What Every Company Needs to Know About Valuable Safety Management

It doesn’t matter what industry you work in: prioritizing safety management is a crucial responsibility of any high-level manager. If protocols are not established, your business risks having staff injured on the job. As one workers compensation attorney in Philadelphia states: “Most victims are unable to continue working in the same capacity as before the injury.”

Injuries on the job due to improper management can be harmful to your bottom line. They can also deter clients and employees from seeking you out. But, successful safety management protects employees and ensures the organization is compliant with all relevant laws.

A strong safety management system can help companies achieve this crucial goal. However, before selecting one, it’s important to understand certain key points.

Identifying Risk Factors

An effective safety management system will gather important information about the potential risks your employees may be exposed to on the job. This system can track various types of information, like employee medical history and the kinds of safety hazards common to workers in your industry.

The gathered information makes it easier for you to identify what types of danger your workers are most likely to find themselves in. Thus, you’re better prepared to put preventative measures in place.

Handling Important Processes

A safety management system shouldn’t just help you identify hazards. It should also help you evaluate the performance of any steps you take to mitigate risks. You can, and should, use your system to regularly assess the impact of your safety efforts and programs.

No One Person is Responsible for Implementing the System

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that only dedicated safety specialists play a role in implementing and maintaining this system. Everyone in the company’s chain-of-command is involved.

A senior manager is likely to be the one who establishes protocols and allocates the necessary funds and resources for a safety management system. But, management is responsible for ensuring these protocols are maintained within their individual departments.

Safety Systems Boost Efficiency

According to a recent study, safety management systems are effective at reducing the frequency of accidents in the workplace. As OSHA points out, this results in a major boost in both productivity and efficiency.

Companies incur additional expenses when employees get hurt or sick on the job. The cost of investigating the accident, compensating the employee, and possibly having to hire and train a replacement can have a major impact on a company’s yield.

Safety management systems prevent these consequences. They’ve also been shown to improve employee morale, which further improves productivity.

Constant Improvement

Safety management systems evolve. By monitoring their effectiveness, managers can identify areas of the business that need improvement. Making sure lower-level employees can contribute feedback is a smart way to improve the system, as they are often more likely to be exposed to hazards. Additionally, employee feedback is one way to devote attention to continuous performance management and boost your organization’s morale and efficiency.

Improved Products

A safety management system is geared towards identifying and addressing hazards. That said, when used properly, it can also indirectly enhance the quality of a company’s products or services.

That’s because responding to workplace injuries depletes an organization’s resources. When employees are safer, a company can direct more attention and energy to optimizing its products. The company’s staff will also be more productive on the job. As a result, the entire business performs at a higher, more consistent level.

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